‘Culture war’ bills target people

They call it a culture war, but it’s not culture that’s under attack. Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly have declared war on real people: teachers, librarians, students and, especially, trans kids and their families. They’re the ones who will be harmed if legislators get their way.

And several education culture-war bills have advanced at the mid-point of the session. Three are especially egregious: ACLU Indiana calls them part of a “slate of hate.” One would ban medical treatment for transgender children, one promotes book-banning, and another would force schools to “out” children over their gender identity.

Senate Bill 480 is the bill banning medical treatment for transgender children. It prohibits “gender transition procedures” for anyone under 18, barring not only surgery but the use of puberty blockers or hormones to delay developmental changes, even if parents approve the treatment. It’s arguably the worst of five anti-trans measures still alive in the legislature.

It is part of a wave of attacks on transgender people, especially children, that has spread from one state to another. Nearly two years ago, the American Medical Association spoke out against the bills, calling them “a dangerous intrusion into the practice of medicine.” A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found trans youth who received gender-affirming medical care, including hormone blockers, were much less likely to experience severe depression.

It’s ironic that Republicans, who claim to be the party of parents’ rights, are trampling on the right of parents to decide on their children’s medical treatment.

Senate Bill 12 is the book-banning bill, and I don’t use the term lightly. If it becomes law, teachers and librarians, if they are accused of providing books or materials that are “harmful to minors,” will no longer be able to argue they were acting as educators. Providing material that’s harmful to minors is a felony, so teachers and librarians will likely purge their shelves of books that anyone might challenge.

There’s sure to be a chilling effect on educators who don’t want to risk controversy. In fact, that’s the intent. “I hope it does have a chilling effect,” said the bill’s author, Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville.

The bill requires public and charter schools to compile lists of all the books in their classrooms and libraries and post them on their websites. And it makes schools set up procedures for parents to complain about the books and petition to have them removed. Supporters claimed school libraries contain pornography but provided no examples.

As West Lafayette attorney Doug Masson points out, the legislation doesn’t provide any pathway for parents who think their children’s access to serious reading material is being blocked by conservative activists and cautious school officials. In other words, there are rights for some parents, not for others.

House Bill 1608 is Indiana’s answer to Florida Gov. Ron DeSanitis’ “don’t say gay” law, but with anti-trans variations. The first part is simple: It bans any instruction on human sexuality for students in grades K-3.

The second part requires teachers to only refer to students by names and pronouns that are consistent with their assigned sex at birth, regardless of the students’ preference. And if any students should ask to change their “name, pronoun, title or other word to identify the student that is inconsistent with the student’s sex,” the school would have to notify parents.

I’m sympathetic to the idea that schools should keep parents informed about what’s going on with their children. But this is a sensitive area, and schools should have the flexibility to act in the best interest of their students. As ACLU staff attorney Harper Seldin writes, transgender youth face a real risk of rejection and even abuse by the adults who are supposed to care for them.

All three bills were approved by near party-line votes with one or two Republicans joining Democrats in voting against them. Committee hearings haven’t yet been scheduled for SB 480 and SB 12 in the House or for HB 1608 in the Senate.


4 thoughts on “‘Culture war’ bills target people

  1. Pingback: Steve Hinnefeld: “Culture War” Bills Target People, Not Culture | Diane Ravitch's blog

  2. Taxpayers and others interested in education should read a 2021 research paper posted at the Scielo site. The content references the U.S., describes the plan we see being enacted in states like Ohio and Indiana and, it identifies the motivation for the effort. The title of the paper is, “The new official contents of sex education in Mexico: laicism in the crosshairs.” It’s available on-line.

  3. Pingback: First They Came for the……. | The Merrow Report

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